Why does your doctor run behind?

We’ve all been there, waiting for the doctor even after showing up on time for our appointment.  It’s even worse when you are waiting with cranky kids.  So what is your doctor is doing anyway?

The Ideal Situation

In a perfect world, a doctor’s day might go something like this:

  • Every patient arrives early to be checked in by the front desk and the nurse so that they are in the room at their appointment time
  • Every patient’s complaint takes only the time allotted by their appointment slot
  • Every doctor’s day is scheduled so that there is plenty of time to catch up on charting, call patients who have questions, approve medication refills and speak to specialists
  • Every day has extra hours built-in to have meetings and perform administrative duties

The Real Situation

The fact is, things happen.  Patients run late for a variety of reasons, especially when kids are involved.  Furthermore, doctors run late because some patients require more time if they are sicker or have chronic problems.  Emergencies do arise, even in the pediatricians office.  We also do our best to accommodate every patient which may mean a double-booked schedule during high demand times like winter.  Occasionally, doctors have to speak to specialists about patients who are either waiting in the office or who have abnormal tests.  Finally, let’s not forgot that many patients wish to speak to the doctor on the phone while patients are waiting to be seen.  On top of all of this, doctors have to chart efficiently about every patient visit and make sure that all of the past history and medications are accurate and up to date, as well as all lab/x-ray results reviewed.  They also may have administrative responsibilities that take up their time during the day, including school forms and medication refills.

Many doctors are also involved in the business aspect of their practice. There may be meetings, phone calls or other tasks required of them during the day that take their time.

What can you do to help?

It can be hard to wait, especially with antsy children along for the ride. Click here for tips on preparing your child for their doctor’s visit.  To help keep things running smoothly, here are some pointers that your doctor will really appreciate and will help keep him/her running on time:

  • Arrive 15 minutes early with accurate insurance information, any outside records and your child’s immunization record.
  • Avoid asking your doctor questions about siblings who do not have an appointment.
  • Be aware that you may be asked to make a return or follow-up appointment if your doctor can not address every non-acute issue at one time.
  • Be prepared with school forms at the time of your appointment.
  • Give your doctor plenty of notice for medication refills.

One last reminder…doctors are people too

Don’t forget that your doctor doesn’t want to run behind any more than you want to wait for 30 minutes or more to be seen.  We stress about running on time as much as we stress about giving good care.  Many times we save all of the busy work until the end of the day just so that we can keep our flow running smoothly.  Yes this means you may not get a call back until 5:30 or 6:00 in the evening, but it also means we aren’t getting home to our families until much later than we want to.  So, be patient, remember the pointers above, and know that, as with all patients, you are getting 100% of our undivided attention when we are in the room with you…which may be why you waited so long.


Author: DrJaimeFriedman

I am a mom and pediatrician here to dispense timely and accurate information about the health and well being of children.
Please see my first blog post, which explains how I got started.

Remember, this is not a substitute for medical advice and is not a private platform.


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